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Nat Hazards (2012) 63:449460

DOI 10.1007/s11069-012-0158-9

ORIGINAL PAPER

Evaluation of liquefaction potential of Guwahati:


Gateway city to Northeastern India

R. Ayothiraman S. T. G. Raghu Kanth S. Sreelatha

Received: 30 October 2009 / Accepted: 20 March 2012 / Published online: 21 April 2012
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Abstract Guwahati city is a major city in the northeastern region of India, which is
growing rapidly in every aspect, particularly the major infrastructures like sports complex,
educational institutions, flyovers, multiplex halls, etc. Two great earthquakes struck this
region in 1897 and 1950, and large-scale liquefaction was reported in and around the
Guwahati city. However, a detailed microzonation study for liquefaction is not available so
far and is taken up accordingly. The liquefaction potential of the Guwahati city is estimated
using hundred boreholes data located at different places of city with a design peak ground
acceleration of 0.36 g. The results are presented in the form of factor of safety contours at
several depths below the ground surface. These contour maps indicate that most of the sites
in Guwahati city area are susceptible to liquefaction and hence this aspect has to be
considered in earthquake-resistant design of foundations/structures in Guwahati city.

Keywords Earthquake  Liquefaction  Standard penetration test (SPT)  Case study

1 Introduction

Soil liquefaction is a major design problem for various geotechnical structures including
large earth structures such as mine tailings, impoundments, and earth dams. Liquefaction-
induced ground failures include loss of bearing strength, lateral spreading, and flow fail-
ures, which may cause many engineering problems such as foundation failures, damage to
utilities, slope failures, land slides, and large displacements of earth dams. Some of the

R. Ayothiraman (&)
Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, New Delhi 110016, India
e-mail: araman@civil.iitd.ac.in

S. T. G. Raghu Kanth
Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai 600036, India

S. Sreelatha
Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati,
Guwahati 781039, Assam, India

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450 Nat Hazards (2012) 63:449460

spectacular examples of earthquake damage have occurred when soil deposits have lost
their strength and appear to flow as fluids due to soil liquefaction during earthquakes. The
1964 Good Friday earthquake (M = 9.2) in Alaska followed by the Niigata earthquake
(M = 7.5) in Japan attracted the attention of many researchers on the phenomenon of soil
liquefaction.
It is found that liquefaction was the major cause of damage to the port facilities and
settlement of pavements in Kobe port during 1995 Kobe earthquake. 2001 Bhuj earthquake
caused significant damage due to liquefaction, and reconnaissance study just after the
earthquake showed that liquefaction occurred in area of more than 15,000 m2. The extent
of damage caused by liquefaction can be substantial, which is observed from the recent
past earthquakes. Hence, it is essential to evaluate the liquefaction potential of a city or a
region, which is seismically active.
Northeast region of India comes under zone V as per IS: 1893 (2002), and seismic
activities in this region are very high. Many great earthquakes had occurred in this region.
For example, 1897 Great Assam earthquake and 1950 Assam earthquake are few of them.
During 1897 Great Assam earthquake, liquefaction was observed at many places in Assam.
Although it was great earthquake and large area of liquefaction was observed, it was found
that the extent of liquefaction-induced damage was very less.
It might be due to the fact that the infrastructural facilities and population density were
very less at that time. But in the present scenario, significant development has been taking
place in this region, in particular Assam. Assam has many oil refineries, industries, and
advanced infrastructural facilities. Hence, the seismic risk of Assam in the present day is
very high, and the degree of damage would be very high, if such great earthquake occurs
again. Guwahati is a major city in the northeastern territory, at which all the developmental
activities are concentrated now. This city has population of 0.81 million, very important
structures such as multistoried buildings, flyovers, retaining walls, and sports centers. So it
is very important to assess the liquefaction potential of this city, which will guide the
design engineer to take up suitable measures, if required. Hence, the liquefaction analysis
is carried out to find out the factor of safety against liquefaction (FSL) using 100 boreholes
data, and the results are presented in this paper.

2 Methods of evaluation

Global research on causes and effects of liquefaction was accelerated after the 1964
Niigata and Alaska earthquakes. The analysis of evaluation of liquefaction potential of a
soil deposit involves the characterization of the intensity of seismic loading that the soil
will be subjected to and the characterization of the liquefaction resistance of the soil. By
characterizing both loading and resistance in common terms, the two can be compared to
determine the liquefaction potential of the soil. A number of approaches to evaluate
potential for initiation of liquefaction have been developed over the past three decades.
There are two broad groups of analysis. The first group (Seed and Idriss 1971; Seed
1979; Seed et al. 1975, 1983) involves estimating the shear stress level likely to develop
in the field under a certain design earthquake. By comparing the induced shear level and
the liquefaction resistance, liquefiable soil zones are identified. The second group of
analysis is based on field observations of performance of sites subjected to earthquakes
in the past. Data on earthquake characteristics and soil resistance measured with standard
penetration or cone penetration test are compiled to establish an empirical relationship
for new sites.

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Nat Hazards (2012) 63:449460 451

2.1 Cyclic shear stress ratio (CSR)

In the original simplified procedure given by Seed and Idriss (1971) and Seed et al.
(1975) simplified procedure, considering the soil column as a rigid body excited by the
seismic loading at the base, the shear stress generated in the soil column was calcu-
lated. In reality, soil behaves as a deformable body instead of as a rigid one. Hence,
the rigid body shear stress is reduced with a correction factor or stress reduction factor
(rd) to give the deformable body shear stress and measures the attenuation of peak
shear stress with depth due to the nonelastic behavior of soil. A factor of 0.65 is then
typically employed to reduce the (single, one time) peak cyclic stress to get the
equivalent uniform cyclic shear stress. Thus, in the simplified procedure, the equiv-
alent uniform cyclic shear stress induced by an earthquake is computed using the
following formula:
amax
savg 0:65 rv rd 1
g
When this equivalent uniform cyclic shear stress is normalized by the initial effective
overburden stress, the result is an estimate of the equivalent uniform cyclic stress ratio
(CSR) as:
amax ch
CSR 0:65 rd 2
g r0v
The values of CSR calculated using Eq. (2) pertain to the equivalent uniform shear
stress induced by the earthquake ground motions generated by an earthquake having a
moment magnitude M. It has been customary to adjust the values of CSR calculated by Eq.
(2), so that the adjusted values of CSR would pertain to the equivalent uniform shear stress
induced by the earthquake ground motions generated by an earthquake having a moment
magnitude M = 7.5, that is,(CSR)M=7.5. Accordingly, the values of (CSR)M=7.5 are given
by:
 
CSR rv amax rd
CSRM7:5 0:65 0 3
MSF rv g MSF
where MSF is magnitude scaling factor. The magnitude scaling factor, MSF, accounts for
earthquake magnitudes different from Mw = 7.5. The magnitude scaling factor, MSF, has
been used to adjust the induced CSR during earthquake magnitude (M = 8.1) to an
equivalent CSR for an earthquake magnitude, M = 7.5. The MSF is thus defined as:
CSRM
MSF 4
CSRM7:5
Thus, MSF provides an approximate representation of the effects of shaking duration or
equivalent number of stress cycles. Values of magnitude scaling factors were derived by
combining correlations of the number of equivalent uniform cycles versus earthquake
magnitude, and laboratory-based relations between the cyclic stress ratios required to cause
liquefaction and the number of uniform stress cycles. The shear stress induced at any point
in a level soil deposits during an earthquake is primarily due to the vertical propagation of
shear waves in the deposit. These stresses are particularly dependent on the earthquake
ground motion characteristics, the shear wave velocity profile of site, and the dynamic soil
properties. Idriss (1999), in extending the work of Golesorkhi (1989), performed several
hundred parametric site response analyses and concluded that the parameter rd could be

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452 Nat Hazards (2012) 63:449460

adequately expressed as a function of depth and earthquake magnitude (M), which are used
in the present study.
Cyclically loaded laboratory test data indicate that liquefaction resistance increases with
increasing confining stress. The rate of increase, however, is nonlinear. To account for the
nonlinearity between CRR and effective overburden pressure, Seed et al. (1983) introduced
the correction factor Kr to extrapolate the simplified procedure to soil layers with over-
burden pressures [100 kPa. Cyclically loaded, isotropically consolidated triaxial com-
pression tests on sand specimens were used to measure CRR for high-stress conditions and
develop Kr values. By taking the ratio of CRR for various confining pressures to the CRR
determined for approximately 100 kPa (1 atm.), Seed (1983) developed the original Kr
correction curve. Other investigators have added data and suggested modifications to better
define Kr for engineering practice. The Kr factor is normally applied to the capacity side of
the analysis during design, but it must also be used to convert the site CSR to a common
0
rv value for the empirical derivation of a CRR-N1 60 curve. This is accomplished as:
 
rv amax rd 1
CSRM7:5;r1 0:65 5
r0v g MSF Kr
0
Such that the values of CSR correspond to an equivalent rv of 1 atm, and thus, the
0
liquefaction correlation also corresponds to an equivalent rv of 1 atm. The equation for Kr
given by Idriss and Boulanger (2006) is:
 0
r
Kr 1  Cr ln v  1:0 6
pa
in which
1
Cr  0:3 7
18:9  17:3DR
where pa is normally taken as 100 kPa and DR is the relative density index.
Idriss and Boulanger (2006) re-evaluated correlations between N1 60 and DR for the
purpose of liquefaction evaluations and recommended the following expressions for clean
sands:
r
N1 60
DR 8
46
Idriss and Boulanger (2006) subsequently expressed the coefficient Cr in terms of
N1 60 as,
1
Cr p  0:3 9
18:9  2:55 N1 60
with N1 60 limited to a maximum values of 37. The equations given by Idriss and
Boulanger (2006) are used in the present study.

2.2 Cyclic resistance ratio (CRR) from SPT data

Semi-empirical procedures for liquefaction evaluations originally were developed using


the standard penetration test (SPT), beginning with efforts in Japan to differentiate between
liquefiable and nonliquefiable conditions in 1964 Niigata earthquake. Subsequent

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Nat Hazards (2012) 63:449460 453

developments have included contributions from many researchers, especially in the


investigations of individual case histories where surface evidence of liquefaction was
observed. The procedures recommended by Seed and his Coworkers (Seed and Idriss 1971;
Seed et al. 1983, 1984, 1985) to obtain and adjust the SPT blow count and to obtain the
values of CRR are particularly note worthy as they have set the standard for almost three
decades of subsequent engineering practice. A revised boundary curve was proposed by
Idriss and Boulanger (2006), and this boundary curve can be conveniently expressed in
analytical equation for determining the CRR based on SPT results as follows:
(       )
N1 60cs N1 60cs 2 N1 60cs 3 N1 60cs 4
CRR exp  2:8 10
14:1 126 23:6 25:4

where N1 60cs is the clean-sand-corrected N-value. The use of these equations provides a
convenient means for calculating the cyclic stress ratio required to cause liquefaction for a
cohesionless soil with any fine content. In order to obtain equivalent, clean-sand-corrected
N-values or N1 60cs recommended by Idriss and Boulanger (2006) are used in the present
analysis.
Several factors in addition to fines content and grain characteristics influence SPT
results. When determining the SPT N-value to be used as outlined in the NCEER 1997
Liquefaction procedure, a series of correction factors are recommended by NCEER 1997,
which are incorporated in the present analysis. SPT penetration resistances are routinely
0
normalized to an equivalent rv =1 atmosphere to obtain quantities that more uniquely relate
0
to the relative density, DR, of sand (i.e., no longer depend on rv ). One of the most

Fig. 1 Locations of boreholes in Guwahati city

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454 Nat Hazards (2012) 63:449460

Fig. 2 Typical SPT N-value profile with depth


Fig. 3 Spatial distribution of average Nvalue

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Nat Hazards (2012) 63:449460 455

Table 1 Site classification for


seismic purposes (IBC 2000) Range of N Site class


N\15 E

15\N\50 D
N [ 50 C

Fig. 4 Comparison of FSL estimated by Seed et al. (1975, 1983) and Idriss and Boulanger (2006)

commonly used expressions for the overburden correction factor proposed by Idriss and
Boulanger (2006) is used, which is given below:
 a q
pa
CN 0  1:7; a 0:784  0:0768 N1 60 11
rv

2.3 Factor of safety against liquefaction

Factor of safety against liquefaction potential is given by:


CRR
FSL 12
CSRM7:5;r1
It is well known that if FSL is greater than 1.0, the soil is safe against liquefaction
potential, but if FSL is less than 1.0, then the soil is susceptible to liquefaction.

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456 Nat Hazards (2012) 63:449460

Fig. 5 Variation of FSL along the depth for all boreholes considered

3 Liquefaction potential of Guwahati city

Evaluation of liquefaction potential is done for Guwahati city using hundred borehole data
collected from Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA). These locations
scattered in an area of about 9 km by 7 km, respectively, along with river Brahmaputra as
shown in Fig. 1. The N values at every location have been determined at an equal interval
of 1.5 m up to a maximum depth of 15 m. At some locations, SPT has been done up to a
maximum depth of 14 m and also up to maximum depth of 20 m, respectively. To illus-
trate variation of standard penetration resistance of soils with depth, two samples of

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Nat Hazards (2012) 63:449460 457

0.6
-1 001.9 .6
0.5 .8 .70 0.3
0.7 01.980 0.3

0. 0.
5 4

0.3
0.4 0.6 0. 3

3
0.5

0.
0 0. 4 0.3
0.3

5
0.4 Silpukhuri Chandmari

0.
0.4 BRAHMAPUTRA RIVER
1 0.70.5

6
0.
Shukleshwar

0.9
0.6 0.3
1 0.4 0.8

1
0.8

0.4
0. 3
0.
00 67
0.
.5.4
0.9 0Bharalmukh
.5 0.3
0.7 0.3 0.
2 Kamakhya Temple GHYRS0.4 3 0. 5
0.8 0.6 0.5 0.3
Distance (km)

1
0.7 0.4
0.9
0.80.6 0.3
1
3 1 0.3
0.9
9

0.6
0.

GS Road

0.2
0. 5
0.8

0.7

0.
4

0. 3
1 05.7
0.8

0.4

0.3
0.9 0.8
0.0.6 . 7
1 0.9 0.8
0

5 0.6
5
0.9

1
1
1 Dispur 0.4
0.9

3
0.
0.5
1
0. 0.6

6
7

.8
0.5
0.7

1 0
0.9
7 0.9
0.4

0.8 0.8
0. 7
0.6 0.4
6
0.

ISBT
0.5
0.4
8
6 4 2 0 -2 -4 -6
Distance (km)

Fig. 6 Contour of factor of safety against liquefaction potential (FSL) at a depth of 3 m

N-value profile at locations 1 and 3 are shown in Fig. 2. The average standard penetration
 at all the boreholes can be computed by the expression as given below:
resistance (N)
Pn
 di
N n i1
P 13
i1 d i =Ni
where di is the thickness of each layer and n is the total number of layers. Figure 3 shows
the spatial distribution of average N-value calculated for Guwahati city. High N can be
observed near Chandmari area. Many building codes use N for classifying a site for
purposes of incorporating local site conditions in estimation of design ground motion. The
site classification based on average N value given by IBC (2000) is presented in Table 1.
As per IBC (2000), E-type sites with low N are susceptible to liquefaction. Out of 100
boreholes in Guwahati city, 92 boreholes are classified as E-type, 7 belong to D-type, and
the remaining one with N greater than 50 can be classified as a C-type site. It is observed
that most of the sites in Guwahati city belong to E-type and hence vulnerable to lique-
faction failure. Since most of the sites in the Guwahati city are susceptible to liquefaction,
further analysis on evaluation of factor of safety against liquefaction potential is must and
accordingly carried out.
The peak ground acceleration recorded in 1897 Assam earthquake for Guwahati city
recommended by IS Code is 0.36 g and has been considered in the present analysis. This
PGA is consistent for an 8.1-magnitude earthquake occurring on a fault at an epicentral

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458 Nat Hazards (2012) 63:449460

0. 5 0.6 0.80.9 1
-1 0.7
0. 4
0.5

0.80.7
0.9 1
0. 3 0. 4 0.6 0.6
0.5 0.8

0.
0.3 1.9
00.7

4
0

0.5
0. 3 Silpukhuri Chandmari

0. . 0.91

0.
00. BRAHMAPUTRA RIVER

4
8.9 0. 3

0.4 08 7
0.4 0. 3
0.5 Shukleshwar 0.5
0.6 0

0.3
1 0.7 0.6 0.3
0.5
6 0.3
Bharalmukh
0. 0.4 0.. 0.5

0.3
1 0.8 4 5

0.
4
0.9 0.5
2 Kamakhya 0.6 GHYRS

0.4
Temple 0.7 0.4
Distance (km)

0. 8 0
0.7.5

0.4
1 0.9
3

0.
6
0.6 1
1

0.
0.8

0.5 GS Road

0.4
0.4 10.5
0.9

0.8
4 0.9
0.7 0.
3

0.60
0.5

..87
0.
9 0. 7 0.0.9
8
5 1 0.7.6 0.7
0. 6 0.05
0.9
0.6

0 0.3 .4
1 1
18
0. 0. 3
Dispur
0.9 0.4
6 0.
8
0.9
7 0. 0.5
0.8
1

0.4
1 0.5
7 0.9
0. 8
0.7
1

0. 7
ISBT 0.6 0.6 .5 0.4
0.5 0
8 04
6 4 2 0 -2 -4 -6
Distance (km)

Fig. 7 Contour of factor of safety against liquefaction potential (FSL) at a depth of 7.5 m

distance of 50 km from Guwahati city. The factor of safety against liquefaction is deter-
mined for all the hundred boreholes using Seed et al. (1975, 1983) and Idriss and Boul-
anger (2006). Although the factor of safety against liquefaction is evaluated for all
boreholes using both methods, Fig. 4 shows the variation of factor of safety estimated by
both methods for one borehole only, just for the sake of comparison. It is observed from the
figure that the approach by Seed et al. (1975, 1983) overestimates the factor of safety
against liquefaction by 1020 % at shallow depth, and by about 40 % at deeper depths,
thus underestimating the liquefaction potential. This observation is consistent with other
boreholes also, but only the degree of underestimation varies. This might be due to the
errors associated with stress reduction coefficient, magnitude scaling factor, and other
important correction factors which were not rigorously considered by the Seed et al. (1975,
1983). Hence, the factor of safety of all boreholes estimated by the recent approach (Idriss
and Boulanger 2006) is presented herein. Figure 5 presents the variation of factor of safety
against liquefaction of all boreholes (100) considered in the present study. It can be
observed from the figure is that the factor of safety against liquefaction for all the four
boreholes is very much less than 1 up to 15 m depth for most of the boreholes except few
boreholes. The exception could be due to the presence of rock stratum at few locations.
This indicates that most of the locations in Guwahati city will liquefy if an 8.1-magnitude
earthquake strikes again.
Figures 6, 7, and 8 present the typical contour of factor of safety against liquefaction at
3.0, 7.5, and 12.0 m depths. One can observe from Fig. 6 that the factor of safety at a depth
of 3 m varies from 0.1 to 0.5 for the design PGA and these values are very much less than

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Nat Hazards (2012) 63:449460 459

-1

0 0. 0.3 0.3 0.5 Silpukhuri 0.4


Chandmari 0.3
06.8 BRAHMAPUTRA
0.4 RIVER 0.4
0.6
0.7
0. 5

0.
0.8 0.6
0.7 0.5

0.5
0.9 0. 5

3
8
0.7

0.
0.

00.8
0.7
Shukleshwar 0.3

1.9
0.4

6 0.4
0.8
0.6

1
1 10.9 0.6 10. 9

0.8
0.5 6
0.

4
0.4
Bharalmukh

0.30.
0.5 0.

0.
3 0.4

0.5 0.9 1
0.8 0.7
0.70.0

2 Kamakhya 0.4
0GHYRS
Distance (km)

0.
.6 0.5
1
65

10.9
0.8

4
Temple 0. 8

0.9
0.8 0.7 0.7

1
0.9 0.6

0.4

0.6
0.9 . 3

1 0.9
1 0
3 0.6
5
0.
0.7
0.8GS Road

0.4
0.7
0.8
4
0. 7 0.

0.8
00..54 3

0.5
1
0. 8 0.9
0.9

5 0. 7 1 0.9 0.6
1

1 1 0.4
0.9 0. 6Dispur 0.3
0.8
0.

6
7

0.7
0.4 .5 0.7
0.8

0.4
0
0.8
0.5
1
0.3
0.9

0.6
1 0.8
0.9

0.5
7 0. 6
0.7
0.6 0. 6
0.4

ISBT 0.5
0.4
8 03 04
6 4 2 0 -2 -4 -6
Distance (km)

Fig. 8 Contour of factor of safety against liquefaction potential (FSL) at a depth of 12 m

1. Similarly, factor of safety at a depth of 7.5 m shown in Fig. 7 also varies between 0.1
and 0.7, which is less than 1.0. Similar observation is seen in Fig. 8 for depth 12.0 m also,
but because of the presence of less data after 12 m depth contours are not very accurate.
From the contours of FSL shown in Figs. 6, 7, and 8, it can be observed that the factor of
safety at all depths is less than one, which means that most of the borehole locations
considered in Guwahati city area is susceptible to liquefaction for an event with PGA of
0.36 g. It is found from the soil exploration that the soil in Guwahati city is predominantly
silty clay having fine content (60100 %) out of which the silt is more than 70 %.
Although the fine content is high, the city is susceptible to liquefaction, because of higher
silt content soil. Hence, a great care is required in selecting the suitable type of foundation
or remedial soil improvement measures for various structures to be constructed in
Guwahati city.

4 Conclusions

The factor of safety against liquefaction of Guwahati city is calculated using 100 boreholes
data, and it is found that the factor of safety against liquefaction potential is less than 1.0
for all the boreholes considered. It is also observed that the total thickness of soil up to
15 m is susceptible to liquefaction, which means that Guwahati city area is most vulner-
able to liquefaction-related hazards during future earthquakes of magnitude more than 8.1.
The developed contour maps can readily be used to evaluate the liquefaction potential of

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460 Nat Hazards (2012) 63:449460

construction sites in Guwahati city, and suitable foundation or remedial soil improvement
measures need to be adopted.

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